Inside Kobe Bryant's Beautiful Relationship With Brandy Norwood

As the world grieves the tragic passing of Kobe Bryant, a sweetly nostalgic moment from his long-ago past is also being remembered. 

Even as a high school student, Kobe was already attracting a lot of attention for his mad basketball skills. So much so that he'd not only been named to the All-American boys' team, had already landed a $2 million Adidas contract, and was heading straight for the NBA, bypassing college altogether. He did, however, have one thing in common with just about every other high school kid — a teensy little celebrity crush.

Kobe Bryant's crush was Brandy Norwood

A former classmate of Kobe's once recalled for the Philadelphia Inquirer how "he had one of those teen magazines and it had a picture of Brandy because she was on that show, Moesha. He showed me and he said, 'I'm gonna bring this girl to prom.' And I was like 'Whatever, you're crazy.'"

Not so crazy, as it turns out. Kobe was actually able to meet his crush, Brandy Norwood, at the Essence Awards. Despite the fact that her star was at its highest while his had just begun to ascend, this high school phenom nevertheless got up the nerve to ask a sitcom star and platinum-selling recording artist to his school prom. Amazingly enough, she accepted!

There was plenty of pre-prom hoopla

As Kobe's mom recalled it, "He came home from the Essence Awards and said, 'I met such a nice, beautiful, intelligent, sweet person." While Brandy had not het committed to the date at the time, she did say "since he was a nice guy ... I asked my mom, and she said yes." Once mom okayed the promposal, that's when things started to get crazy. Lower Merion High School had to hire extra security guards for the event, and reporters began besieging the school.

Fellow students were excited for the most part, but some felt a bit put out by all the fuss. One classmate, her nose definitely out of joint, told said: "It's supposed to be everybody's night. Now it's not going to be a prom, it's going to be this other thing 'cause Bran-dee (eye roll) is going to be there." Another, more forgiving, said of the TV star: It's not her fault, but we should be able to have our prom in peace."

Jennifer Weiner, the New York Times #1 bestselling author (via publisher Simon & Schuster) was covering the event for the Philadelphia Inquirer at the time. Her take on it was that many people were surprised Kobe would even bother to attend his prom. As he was already quite a celebrity in his own right, at least in the basketball world, Weiner imagined Kobe "could have gone clubbing with Charles Barkley or someone."

Kobe and Brandy's prom date

On the night itself, while paparazzi prowled outside, Brandy arrived on Kobe's arm in a stunning Moschino gown. As Weiner described it, "Kobe and Brandy sort of made an entrance, with people with cameras yelling at them as they walked in. At the time, it felt very unusual and atypical and special."

Once the couple were inside, though, one student recalled that "people just treated it like, 'Oh, hi, Brandy.' It wasn't a big spectacle," while another called Brandy "the sweetest person I ever talked to," and yet another recalled the star admitting to being nervous since she hadn't been to her own prom — Kobe's was actually the first one she'd ever attended.

Kobe and Brandy went their separate ways after prom

While Kobe and Brandy pretty much went their separate ways after their prom date, TMZ caught up with the singer in 2014 and asked her if she recalled that night 18 years earlier. She remembered it fondly, saying she had an "amazing" time, and admitting that her mom still had the corsage she'd worn that night. While at that time Brandy couldn't recall what had become of her prom dress, a later TMZ interview reveals the fact that it was still hanging in her closet.

Tragically, 24 years after their one and only date, Kobe Bryant was killed in a helicopter crash that heartbreakingly took the life of his beautiful daughter Gianna, as well.

Brandy breaks her silence on Kobe Bryant's death

While Brandy did not join in the immediate outpouring of grief which began as soon as the news broke about Kobe's accident, she did weigh in one week later on her Instagram. She posted some artwork depicting Kobe and Gianna, along with a sad caption that not only acknowledges her lost friend, but also the other kids and parents who had died alongside the NBA icon. Brandy's comment read: "Never will I understand. My condolences to @vanessabryant, and all families who are in pain during this tragic time. Love #Mamba #Mambacita." 

This just shows that while the two may not have been in contact too often since their prom date as life took them in different directions, Brandy never forgot the future superstar with whom she once shared a few sweet moments so very long ago.